BOSTON (Reuters) - If you are a woman, even a few extra pounds can increase your risk of acid reflux, according to a New England Journal of Medicine study published on Wednesday.
Doctors have had evidence for years that excessive weight can bring on heartburn and other symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease, which occurs when stomach contents are regurgitated.
The new study of 10,545 female nurses showed a correlation between even modest weight gain and reflux disease.
A 5-foot 2-inch woman weighing 123 to 136 pounds had a 38 percent greater chance of reflux than a woman weighing 110 to 122 lb, the study found. All those weights are considered to be in the normal range.
From 137 to 192 lb, the risk more than doubled. At 192 lb, the risk nearly tripled for a person of that height, according to the study, which was led by Brian Jacobson of the Boston University School of Medicine.
Factors such as diet, smoking or diabetes did not appear to influence the risk.
Jacobson said the study "probably applies" to men, but he could not say for sure without real data.
The condition, however, can be reversed. If a 5-foot 6-inch woman who weighs 150 lb loses 25 lb, she will reduce her risk of frequent reflux symptoms by about 40 percent, Jacobson said in an interview.
Reflux affects 20 to 30 percent of adults at least once a week. In severe cases, the condition can cause nighttime choking and lead to cancer. Doctors typically treat it with drugs that suppress the production of stomach acid.